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Glass Structures & Engineering

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 127–141 | Cite as

Experimental investigation of mortar mechanical properties for glass brick masonry

  • Jiří Fíla
  • Martina Eliášová
  • Zdeněk Sokol
SI: Challenging Glass Paper
  • 83 Downloads

Abstract

The main advantage of solid bricks over hollow blocks is substantially higher compressive strength. On the other hand, solid bricks have much higher thermal conductivity, which would lead to major heat loss when used for exterior walls. Masonry pillars and walls are usually loaded in compression and/or bending resulting from the eccentricity of vertical load or wind load. In case of solid glass bricks, compressive strength is about ten times higher than tension strength therefore the limiting factor of the glass masonry is tensile stress resulting from the bending. Whether compared to ceramic or concrete bricks masonry, the glass bricks have a smooth and non-absorbent surface and the adhesion of the mortar to the glass surface is the critical parameter. Presented paper is focused on the experimental investigation of mortar applicable for glass brick masonry with regard to use for load bearing brick walls or columns. Shear, compression and tension tests have been recently performed. Shear and tension resistance and failure modes of brick bed joint were determined during series of tests using various mortar composition, two types of surface treatment and different thickness of the mortar joint. Significant influence of the joint thickness on the resistance was found. The compression tests were performed on two small pillars to determine the compression resistance and failure mode of glass bricks walls and pillars. In parallel to these tests, several small-scale tests have been performed to determine flexural and compressive strength of hardened mortar.

Keywords

Glass Masonry Experiments Shear test Tension test Compression test 

1 Introduction

Contemporary architecture is characterized by the emphasis to the transparent structures with increased usage of structural glass elements. These elements are able to transfer its self-weight and imposed load as well as the wind or snow loads. Glass balustrades, staircases, floors or even glass beams or columns became very popular in recent years. However glass can also replace another traditional material - ceramic or concrete bricks. The use of solid glass brick masonry as structural component could be very advantageous due to its high compressive strength and aesthetic quality of the glass. It can be used as an alternative to traditional facades and in situations when the high heat conduction rate is not an issue. Such masonry has been used on the Crystal House façade in Amsterdam (Oikonomopoulou et al. 2017) and the Atocha memorial (Christoph and Knut 2008). Transparent UV cured adhesive was used in these cases. Use of this adhesive is demanding in respect to technological procedure. The structures have been manufactured in almost laboratory conditions. The bricks must have precise shape and dimensions because the applied adhesive layer was thin. Application and UV-curing of the adhesive should be made by experts. This paper is focused on experimental investigation of the properties of bricks bonded with cement-based mortars. Its use is the architectural intention to get structure similar to ceramic bricks masonry which is partially transparent. The alternation of glass bricks and non-transparent joints create interesting visual contrast while mirror effect is created on the inner surface of the glass bricks. In addition, it has other structural and economical benefits. The masonry with the cement-based mortar can be made by average skilled bricklayers and the application is not very sensitive to site conditions as moisture, dust and temperature. The bricks can be produced with lower accuracy as higher thickness of the joints to easily accommodate the manufacturing tolerances. Larger volume of mortar can reduce cracks produced due to the expansion of the bricks due to temperature changes. Moreover, the mortar is cheaper than the adhesives.
Fig. 1

Dimensions of the glass brick

Fig. 2

Smooth surface

Fig. 3

Sandblasted surface

Table 1

A summary of shear tests

Material type

Surface treatment

Number of test specimen (pcs)

Thickness of joint (mm)

Failure load \(\hbox {F}_\mathrm{max}{}^{\mathrm{a}}\) (kN)

Failure stress \(\tau _{\mathrm{max}}{}^{\mathrm{a}}\) (MPa)

Mortar 1

Smooth

3 (3)\(^{\mathrm{b}}\)

11

0

0

Sandblasted

4 (0)

11

23.42

0.435

Mortar 2

Smooth

7 (0)

4

13.69

0.254

12 (0)

5

19.43

0.360

4 (0)

7

6.91

0.128

3 (0)

11

14.66

0.272

Mortar 3

Smooth

2 (0)

3

56.25

1.046

2 (0)

7

32.00

0.595

12 (4)

11

3.36

0.062

4 (0)

13

5.03

0.093

6 (6)

15

0

0

2 (2)

16

0

0

Tile adhesive

Smooth

4 (0)

1

42.49

0.790

1 (0)

4

23.23

0.432

4 (0)

5

15.63

0.290

3 (1)

12

0.51

0.009

\(^{\mathrm{a}}\)Mean value of failure load/shear stress

\(^{\mathrm{b}}\)Specimens disintegrated before testing

2 Experimental research

This paper comprises the experimental investigation aimed to the determination of the shear strength and material properties of selected mortars that are appropriate for glass brick masonry. The influence of the material type, surface treatment of glass bricks and bed joint thickness have been studied (Fíla et al. 2017). Several types of cement-based mortars were used in this research. Material properties of the mortars were determined by flexural and compressive tests. Mortars suitable for application were selected, based on the results obtained from the shear tests, and were used for the compression test of the glass pillar which was performed in the second phase.

Experimental research was performed in the laboratories of CTU in Prague, Faculty of Civil Engineering in cooperation with the Vitrablok company. The test specimens were made from solid glass bricks, see Fig. 1. Their shape is tapered to allow easy removal of the finished brick from the mould. Size of the brick base is \(240\times 117\) mm with the height 53 mm. Two types of surface treatment were used—bricks with smooth surface (no treatment), see Fig. 2, and bricks with sandblasted bed surfaces, see Fig. 3. The surface was blasted by grain size F150 and blasting pressure 2.9 bar.

3 Shear strength of the glass brick bed joint

3.1 Test specimens

Totally four different cement-based materials were tested such as three mortars and one type of tile adhesive. The tested materials were selected from products available on the market with regard to workability and adhesion to smooth surfaces. The first type of tested mortar is intended for traditional installation of walls from hollow glass blocks \((\hbox {Mortar}~1 = \hbox {Vetromalta})\), the second type is the same as the first one that has been modified by adhesion admixture \((\hbox {Mortar}~2 = \hbox {Vetromalta} + \hbox {latex admixture})\). The third type is cement-based mortar for use on walls and ceilings in interiors and exteriors with the adhesion admixture \((\hbox {Mortar}~3 = \hbox {Nivoplan} + \hbox {Planicrete})\). Tile adhesive was used for the last set of the test specimens (Tile adhesive = Flexkleber_Weiss). Test specimens with two different surface treatment (smooth and sandblasted surface) were tested only for the first type of mortar while the smooth surface was used in the other cases. The colour of the Mortar 1, 2 and 3 is grey, the tile adhesive is white (grey option is also available on the market). Summary of the tested specimens is shown in Table 1.

The test specimens were made from three solid glass bricks bonded with the mortar/tile adhesive. The test specimen made from bricks with smooth surface is shown in the Fig. 4. To ensure the uniform thickness of joints, plastic spacers were used during the production of the test specimens, see Fig. 5. The bricks were laid on the mortar and pressure was applied to ensure proper contact while the spacers help to reach the required thickness. The excess mortar was pushed out of the joint and removed. Depending on the tested mortar, influence of the bed joint thickness on the shear strength is crucial, especially in the case of Mortar 3 and tile adhesive. With the increasing thickness, the shear strength decreases and vice versa. For this reason, specimens with different bed joint thicknesses were tested, see Table 1.
Fig. 4

Shear test specimen

Fig. 5

Spacers 1 mm (left) and 5 mm (right)

The mortars were allowed 28 days for hardening. The test specimens were stored in laboratory and were covered with polyethylene foil to avoid excessive drying of the mortar. The ambient air temperature was monitored during the storage period, the temperature was in range \(22.4{-}28.0{^{\circ }}\hbox {C}\).

3.2 Test set-up

The tests were performed according to EN 1052-3:2002.

The specimen was placed in the testing machine in vertical position as shown in Figs. 6 and 7. Rubber elastic pads of 5 mm thickness were inserted between the glass brick and the steel supporting plates to reduce the risk of local peak stresses generation and the subsequent fracture of the glass bricks in the contact areas. The steel plates were supported by steel rods with diameter of 20 mm. The load was transmitted by ball joint placed in the middle of the steel plate with rubber pad placed between the glass brick and the steel plate.
Fig. 6

Schema of test

Fig. 7

Specimen in testing machine

Test specimens were loaded with loading rate 0.5 mm/min, see Fig. 6, thus the bed joints were loaded by shear. Two linear displacement transducers were used to measure the relative displacement of the bricks in several tests. In all cases, no deformation was observed until failure. For that reason, the deformation of the other specimens was not measured.

3.3 Evaluation of the experiments

There are three possible modes of the joint failure in shear:
  • adhesive failure, i.e. the loss of mortar adhesion to the glass brick surface,

  • cohesive failure, i.e. the failure in the mortar,

  • cohesive-adhesive failure, i.e. the combination of the previous modes.

Adhesive failure mode was observed for all specimens, no damage of the glass bricks was found. Brittle failure without measurable shear deformation or visible crack generation in the joints was found for all the specimens.
  • Influence of the surface treatment

Surface treatment was investigated only for the test specimens made of Mortar 1. Treatment of the bricks surface by fine sandblasting has significant influence on the shear strength. While the major part of the specimens made of glass bricks with smooth surface could not be tested because of being damaged during handling (Mortar 1 and Mortar 3), the specimens with sandblasted surface attained more than ten times higher shear strength. Despite better load behavior, the surface treatment of glass bricks has a significant impact on the appearance of finished masonry. The smooth bricks create mirror effects on the bed joint surfaces while it is not available on the sandblasted surfaces, therefore the following tests were performed only with the bricks having the smooth surface.
  • Influence of the material

There are two material types used for the joints—mortars and tile adhesive. Both are cement based and contain some additives improving workability, strength, hardening, etc. Mortars are usually used for joint thicknesses of about 10 mm, while the tile adhesives are intended for smaller thicknesses up to 5 mm. For all materials, the results obtained for the specimens with the same surface treatment and thickness were very similar.
  • Influence of the bed joint thickness

Used mortars showed insufficient adhesion to the smooth glass surface, some specimens even have disintegrated during handling (most of the specimens made with joint of approximate 10 mm thickness). The lower joint thickness of the same mortar type showed higher shear strength, see Table 1. Specimens with different thickness have been tested for each type of the mortar with regard to feasibility and appearance of the masonry. The tests showed characteristics typical for the adhesives, when decreasing the joint thickness leads to distinct increase of the shear strength. This phenomenon was described in case of the acrylic UV-cured adhesive by Petrie (2007) and is known from the experimental research of adhesive joints, e.g. Machalická and Eliášová (2016). The results for Mortar 3 showed that four times smaller thickness results to ten times higher shear strength.
Fig. 8

Flexural strength test

Table 2

A summary of flexural strength tests

Material type

Number of test specimen (pcs)

Failure load \(\hbox {F}_{\mathrm{max}}{}^{\mathrm{a}}\) (kN)

Failure stress \(\sigma _{\mathrm{max}}{}^{\mathrm{a}}\) (MPa)

Mortar 1

3

3.97

8.95

Mortar 3

3

3.14

6.84

Tile adhesive

3

3.13

7.09

\(^{\mathrm{a}}\)These are mean values of tested specimens

4 Flexural and compressive strength of hardened mortar

As a part of the experimental program, tests in accordance with EN 1015-11 (1999) were carried out in order to determine flexural and compressive strength of mortars and tile adhesive used in the shear tests. These tests are very important for the determination of mortar properties that will be used in the following research of masonry from solid glass blocks as the input parameters to the numerical model.

4.1 Flexural strength test

Flexural strength tests were performed to determine the tensile strength of the Mortar 1, Mortar 3 and tile adhesive. Three test specimens were prepared from each type of the material. Test specimens sized \(40\times 40\times 160\) mm were made using a triplet form and were tested after 28 days hardening period. Test set-up corresponds to the three-point bending test, see Fig. 8. The specimens were loaded by rate 100 N/s up to the failure. A summary of all test specimens and test results is shown in Table 2 (Fig. 9).

4.2 Compressive strength test

Half prisms from the flexure tests were used for the compressive strength test. Totally, six specimens for each mortar/tile adhesive have been tested. The specimen was placed into the testing device and loaded by rate 100 N/s by a centric compression up to the failure, Fig. 10. A summary of all specimens and their results with the mean values of maximal force at failure and maximal stress is given in Table 3 (Fig. 11).
Fig. 9

Specimen after flexural test

Fig. 10

Compressive strength test

Table 3

A summary of compressive strength tests

Material type

Number of test specimen (pcs)

Failure load \(\hbox {F}_{\mathrm{max}}{}^{\mathrm{a}}\) (kN)

Failure stress \(\sigma _{\mathrm{max}}{}^{\mathrm{a}}\) (MPa)

Mortar 1

6

59.87

37.42

Mortar 3

6

30.82

18.57

Tile adhesive

6

37.18

23.24

\(^{\mathrm{a}}\)Mean values of tested specimens

5 Tension tests

Tension tests were performed to determine the adhesion of mortar to the glass bricks surface. Due to the smooth glass surface, the adhesion of the mortar is a crucial factor affecting the load bearing capacity of the masonry when it is loaded by bending or eccentric compression and tension in the bed joints appears.

5.1 Test specimens

Each specimen was composed of two perpendicular glass bricks connected with a mortar in the middle on an area sized \(117\times 117\) mm, see Fig. 12. All test specimens were identical differing only in the joint thickness. A summary of the tested specimens including the thickness of the bed joints is given in Table 4.
Fig. 11

Specimen after compressive test

Fig. 12

Tension test specimen

5.2 Test set-up

The test layout is shown in Fig. 13. The specimens formed by two bonded bricks were placed into the machine in a way that the upper brick was supported at its edges by steel plates, see Fig. 14. Rubber pads were used between the supports and the glass brick. Loading force was applied to the bottom brick with the help of the timber beam, see Fig. 15. In this way, the joint was loaded in tension. Moreover, the total load to the upper joint failure was increased by the self-weight of the lower brick and the mortar. This effect was neglected during the evaluation of the tests.
Table 4

A summary of tension tests

Material type

Surface treatment

Number of test specimen (pcs)

Joint thickness (mm)

Failure load \(\hbox {F}_{\mathrm{max}}{}^{\mathrm{a}}\) (kN)

Failure stress \(\sigma _{\mathrm{max}}{}^{\mathrm{a}}\) (MPa)

Mortar 2

Smooth

7 (0)\(^{\mathrm{b}}\)

3

4.39

0.321

6 (4)

4

1.45

0.106

5 (2)

6

1.19

0.087

Mortar 3

Smooth

6 (1)

10

5.60

0.409

Tile adhesive

Smooth

4 (0)

1

3.54

0.258

4 (0)

5

0.85

0.062

\(^{\mathrm{a}}\)Mean values of tested specimens

\(^{\mathrm{b}}\)Specimens disintegrated before testing

Fig. 13

Layout of tension test

5.3 Evaluation of the experiments

The test results are shown in Table 4. For most specimens, adhesion failure occurred (Fig. 16) as in the case of the shear tests. In few cases, the mortar cracked at the same time, the cracks were probably initiated by shrinking during the hardening process, see Fig. 17. Five out of six specimens bonded by Mortar 3 could not be tested because they had disintegrated during handling before the test. Brittle failure without cracks development in the mortar during the test was observed. Only glass bricks with smooth surface were tested, although the sandblasted surface would certainly improve the adhesion of the mortar to the glass. However, glass bricks with sandblasted surface are not convenient for aesthetic reasons as explained in the previous chapter.
  • Influence of the bed joint thickness

The effect of the bed joint thickness on the adhesive strength was considerable in the tension tests, similarly to the shear tests, see Table 4. The results show significant drop of the strength for increasing bed joint thickness, compare the values for Mortar 2 and tile adhesive
Fig. 14

Specimen in the test machine

Fig. 15

Specimen prepared for the test

Fig. 16

Specimen after the test

Fig. 17

Specimen after the test

6 Compression tests of the glass pillars

6.1 Test specimens

Fig. 18

Compression test specimen

Based on the results of the shear and tension tests, Mortar 2 was selected for another set of experiments that was focused on the compression test of the glass brick pillar. In total, 2 test specimens were made, each of 20 bricks with full and half-size format, see Fig. 18. Each specimen was assembled from ten rows of glass bricks approximately 0.6 m height. The specimen was two bricks in width, i.e. about 490 mm. Pillar thickness corresponded to a single brick width of 117 mm. The specimens were built out of the test machine on the steel plates to facilitate handling. The first brick layer was placed in a mortar bed of approximately 10 mm thick. Vertical wooden plate clamped to the floor was used to minimize geometrical imperfections, which could be created during the pillar assembling. The thicknesses of the head and bed joints were assured by means of 8 mm thick spacers, which were removed after the pillar completion. Joints were then adjusted and the surface was carefully finished with a spatula. The test was performed after 28 days of hardening.

6.2 Test set-up

The test specimen was loaded by centric compression. It was also provided with rubber pads placed between the steel plate and the machine floor to avoid local peak stresses. The load was transmitted to the specimen via a pair of steel sections IPN180, as shown in Fig. 19. The steel sections were welded to form hollow section and stiffened by welding steel transverse stiffeners, see Fig. 20. This element was used to create uniform load distribution to the top of the pillar. It was placed on the last row of bricks into a gypsum bed of thickness approximately 2 mm.
Fig. 19

Beams with welded transverse stiffener

Fig. 20

Specimen in the testing machine

Four displacement transducers were used to measure the vertical deformation of the test specimen. In addition, two strain gauges were placed on the second specimen for the indirect stress measurement. The strain gauges were located on the opposite sides in the middle of the pillar to detect possible out-of-plane bending resulting from imperfection of the pillar and load eccentricity. The layout of the strain gauges and displacement transducers location are shown in Figs. 21 and 22.

6.3 Evaluation of the experiments

The test specimens were loaded with a load rate 80 kN/min. No deformation or damage was observed up to the load 800 kN when the first crack appeared. From that point, remarkable sound indicating crack development in the glass bricks could be heard. However, the formation of the cracks resulted neither in the collapse of the pillar, nor in the deformation of the test specimen. Further increase of the load was thus possible.
Fig. 21

Sensors layout

Fig. 22

Attachment of displacement transducers (left) and strain gauges (right)

Fig. 23

First specimen—cracks development

Fig. 24

Second specimen—cracks development

The first test specimen was loaded until the collapse of the load-distributing steel element at load 1410 kN. The development of the cracks at the pillar is shown in Fig. 23. In the case of the first test specimen, the cracks at the top edge were created at the end of the test and were caused by the collapse of the load distributing steel element.

The first crack on the second test specimen appeared in the middle brick at the second row at the load 800 kN (Fig. 24). The experiment was stopped at load 1565 kN because of a sudden load drop. The reason is unknown.

During the experiments it was found that despite significant axial stress in the pillar, there were no flying glass fragments and the structure was still able to carry the load even after several cracks development. There were no cracks in the mortar in both cases. It means that glass pillar attains sufficient residual load bearing capacity and, moreover, the cracks propagation in the bricks will alert the user to overloading and emergency situation.
Fig. 25

Comparison of the maximum force for different joint thicknesses

Fig. 26

Comparison of the maximum force for different joint thicknesses

7 Discussion

7.1 Shear test

Four different mortars/tile adhesive were tested to find suitable connecting material for masonry made of solid glass bricks. Glass bricks with the sand blasted bed joint surface proved significantly higher shear strength but this treatment is not preferred because of the appearance of the glass brick masonry. The smooth surface of the glass bricks leads to the adhesion collapse mode. Unfortunately, test specimens made with Mortar 1 and Mortar 3 have disintegrated during handling and test preparation. This is especially the case of the bed joints thickness above 10 mm. It seems the optimum joint thickness considering the masonry manufacturing process should be from 3 to 7 mm. It is necessary to follow the technological procedures, particularly during the mixture of the components \((\hbox {mortar} + \hbox {admixtures})\), and to careful check of the joint thickness. This can be done easily with the help of spacers, which should be removed before mortar hardening.

The mean values and range of measured values for each joint thickness are plotted in the graphs, see Figs. 25 and 26. Significant influence of the joint thickness can be seen from the results for Mortar 3 and Tile adhesive. In case of Mortar 2, the highest mean value of shear strength was achieved at a joint thickness of 5 mm. At this thickness, however, the range of values is significantly greater than in the other cases and the high mean value is caused by a few extremely high failure loads. There is a considerable dispersion of results in case of some thicknesses, therefore the result set is inadequate for statistical evaluation.
Fig. 27

Comparison of the maximum force for different joint thicknesses

Fig. 28

Comparison of the maximum force for different joint thicknesses

Experimental results can be summarized accordingly:
  • Shear resistance of the sandblasted glass surface leads to better performance and higher shear strength in comparison to the smooth surface.

  • The joint thickness has significant influence on the shear strength of the bed joint of the glass bricks masonry. With decreasing thickness, the shear strength increases. This phenomenon is typical for the adhesive joints, where the shear strength strongly depends on the thickness of the rigid adhesives. The structural performance of special mortars with additives and plasticizers is similar to the performance of glued connections.

7.2 Tension test

Significant effect of the joint thickness on the tension strength of the bed joint was confirmed as in the case of shear tests. These results also contributed to recommended thickness of the joint such not to exceed 6 mm. It was impossible to carry out the tests for Mortar 3, except for one specimen, since the other specimens have disintegrated during the test preparation. Mortar 2 showed more favorable results, but there were still few specimens that had disintegrated before the test.

The mean values and range of measured values for each joint thickness are shown in Figs. 27 and 28. It can be seen from the graphs that the highest average values were achieved for the thin joints, the adhesion decreases with increasing thickness (Fig. 29).
Fig. 29

Comparison of the maximum force for the shear and tension

7.3 Compression test

Based on the strain measurements, it was found that both tested specimens were loaded by centric compression (the difference in strain caused by eccentricity of the load was not significant). The load capacity of both test specimens was reached at a load level of 800 kN when the first cracks in the glass bricks occurred. The cracks were in a vertical direction in all cases and were caused by tensile stress reaching the tensile strength of the glass. The average compressive stress in the glass was around 15 MPa. Cracking of the bricks did not cause collapse or destruction of the specimen, neither the connecting material (Mortar 2) was damaged. The test specimens with cracked bricks were loaded to 1410 kN and 1596 kN, respectively. Even after the bricks cracking, the specimens were able to carry the increasing load. The cracks were accompanied by loud sound effects and they were easily visible, thus the user would be warned in case of overloading and accidental situation.

8 Conclusions

This article presents the result of shear, tension and compression tests made in the first phase of research of masonry combining solid glass bricks and cement-based mortar/tile adhesive. The purpose of this research was to investigate the influence of brick surface treatment on mortar adhesion and to select the appropriate type of connecting material. During the experiments significant influence of joint thickness on the strength was found, therefore preliminary tests were carried out to determine this effect. These tests showed that cement-based materials behave in a similar manner as adhesives, when tension strength decreases with increasing thickness. Therefore, the follow-up research will be focused on expanding the tests to verify the conclusions stated in this paper. However, it can be stated that for practical use it is possible to recommend a bed joint thickness in the range of 3–7 mm. In the case of structural elements loaded only by the centric compression, mortar adhesion to the smooth brick surface is sufficient. Small-scale glass pillar experiments have also shown a sufficient residual load bearing capacity, i.e. after the first crack, the pillar is further able to transmit the load without collapse. The achievement of the ultimate load- bearing capacity is identifiable by the occurrence of the first cracks in glass bricks. In the longer term plan, the experiments will be focused on the full-scale test of pillar and out of plane bending tests of walls loaded parallel and perpendicular to the bed joint.

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by grant CTU No. SGS16/136/OHK1/2T/11 and by Grant No. GA16-17461S of the Czech Science Foundation. In addition, the authors are grateful to company Vitrablok, s.r.o. for the co-operation and providing the glass bricks for the experiments.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Steel and Timber Structures, Faculty of Civil EngineeringCzech Technical University in PraguePragueCzech Republic

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